It’s fair to say that 2021 was a great year for TV.
Line of Duty had record viewing figures for drama. And the final of the Men’s European football championship gained the biggest TV audience since the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997.
Numbers aren’t everything though and it’s true there’s a general feeling in some parts of the TV industry that it’s streaming services that are really pushing the envelope when it comes to quality. But the traditional broadcasters are still having a significant impact, and not just the main two channels.
In my annual preview a year ago, I described how Channel Four’s (then-upcoming) It’s A Sin “follows a group of friends… as the Aids crisis begins to unfold”. That bland description cannot come close to conveying the way the five-episode drama reduced so many of us to angry tears.
So here are 22 shows and TV events across traditional broadcasters and streaming services worth keeping an eye out for on the small screen in 2022.
1. Anne (ITV)
The award-winning Maxine Peake plays real life campaigner Anne Williams, whose son was among those who died in the Hillsborough disaster.
Before her death in 2013 she spent decades trying to achieve justice for 15-year-old Kevin and the other victims.
The drama follows Anne, who had no formal legal training, and her efforts to challenge the medical evidence and legal rulings that she believed were fundamentally wrong.
2. Call My Agent (Amazon Prime)
A UK remake of the popular French comedy drama that follows a group of talent agents doing their best to survive in a competitive industry, while at the same time trying to steer and control their sometimes impulsively difficult clients.
Like the French series, it will feature cameos from well known actors playing themselves, including Phoebe Dynevor, Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter.
3. Chloe (BBC One)
A new mystery thriller about the impact of social media on a group of young people.
Becky, a temp, lives in a small flat in Bristol with her mother who has early-onset dementia.
She’s been enviously following the picture-perfect social media posts of a woman called Chloe for a long, long time.
But when Chloe dies suddenly, Becky takes on a new identity and infiltrates Chloe’s group of friends.
4. Compulsion (Channel 5)
After being called to a fatal train crash, paramedic Jenny develops a serious gambling habit as she tries to cope with her PTSD.
Heavily in debt to a sinister loan shark, Jenny doesn’t know which way to turn, until a woman called Sasha comes into her life, offering her what appears to be a way out of her problems.
But the easy solution turns out to be far more dangerous than Jenny could ever have imagined.
5. Conversations With Friends (BBC Three)
Many were hoping for the BBC’s follow up to its adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People to appear in 2021.
It was not to be, but the TV version of Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations With Friends, about two college students and their connection with a married couple, looks on schedule to finally arrive in 2022.
And it will almost certainly be one of the centrepieces of a back-on-traditional-TV BBC Three.
6. Doctor Who (BBC One)
Jodie Whittaker made history in 2017 as the first woman to play the Time Lord. Now her time in the Tardis is coming to an end. Her final special is due to be broadcast in the autumn of 2022 to coincide with the BBC’s centenary, when she’ll regenerate into the 14th Doctor.
The unveiling of a new Doctor has developed into a television event in its own right. And while at one end of the scale David Tennant was announced by press release, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker were all announced to millions on BBC One.
So what will happen this time? Well, depending on when filming has to start on their first episode, might we even see the 14th Doctor being revealed to the world onscreen when Whittaker finally regenerates?
g I Know About Love (BBC One)
Award-winning writer Dolly Alderton has adapted her memoir about navigating her 20s, Everything I Know About Love, for this seven-part series.
Much of the story is set in 2012 in the house shared by best friends Maggie (Emma Appleton) and Birdy (Bel Powley) and, like the book, it’s expected to explore the themes of love, heartache and friendship.
8. Harry Potter Reunion Special (Sky)
After the success of the Friends reunion special, bringing together the cast of the widely beloved multi-billion pound Harry Potter franchise seems like an obvious ratings winner.
As well as the three central stars – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – many more members of the cast will be involved, including Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort).
Harry Potter creator JK Rowling won’t be taking part, a move that’s widely believed to be related to her comments about trans people, sex and gender, which have divided public opinion.
9. House of Dragons (Sky Atlantic)
This prequel is set 200 years before the eight-series Game of Thrones TV show and tells the story of the House Targaryen, the ancestors of Danerys Targaryen (aka Khalessi, aka the Mother of Dragons).
It’s based on George R R Martin’s book Fire and Blood. And the 10-part series stars Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke and Matt Smith.
10. Inventing Anna (Netflix)
Inventing Anna is based on a New York magazine investigation into a woman going by the name of Anna Delvey (Julia Garner) who convinced people that she was a wealthy European heiress.
In fact she turned out to be a fake who conned friends, hotels and banks out of eye-watering amounts of money. She was eventually convicted on multiple fraud charges in 2019.
The series follows journalist Vivian Kent’s (Anna Chlumsky) attempts to discover the truth.
11. The Lord of the Rings (Amazon Prime)
It’s been touted as the most expensive TV series ever, with a budget equivalent to several tonnes of Dwarf mined mithril.
And after the high production values of the Peter Jackson film adaptations, viewers are expecting to be just as dazzled and thrilled by this new take on Middle Earth which has also been filmed with New Zealand as its spectacular backdrop.
The series is set thousands of years before the events of the novels The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
12. Nolly (ITV)
Crossroads was a phenomenon. Its production values may have been far from perfect, but viewers loved the motel set Midlands-based soap opera. And at its heart was Noele Gordon’s Meg Mortimer (formerly Richardson).
Russell T Davies (It’s A Sin) has written this three-part drama about Gordon’s time on the show which ended with her shock sacking.
Helena Bonham Carter will play the soap icon.
13. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)
Following on from the success of The Mandalorian in expanding the Star Wars universe on the small screen, Obi-Wan Kenobi will feature the return of Ewan McGregor as one of the franchise’s most-loved characters.
It’s set between the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the original movie Episode IV: A New Hope. And will see Hayden Christensen also returning as Darth Vader.
14. Pam and Tommy (Disney+)
In the 1990s, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were two of the biggest celebrities on the planet. She was the star of the plot light, slow motion heavy, lifeguard drama Baywatch; he was the drummer in the metal band Mötley Crüe.
This series tells the story of how a sex tape made by the couple ended up being made public, becoming the world’s first viral video. Lily James stars as Anderson while Sebastian Stan plays Lee.
15. Peacemaker (UK broadcaster tbc)
This is the first TV spin-off from the DC Extended Universe of Batman and Superman.
The show centres around the character Peacemaker from the film The Suicide Squad, a man who’ll kill anyone and anything in the name of peace.
The new series is written and directed by James Gunn, who performed the same duties on The Suicide Squad movie and on Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy films.
16. Pistol (Disney+)
Pistol is based on the memoir by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, and it charts the rise of the seminal punk band in the 1970s as they grew in both popularity and notoriety.
A law suit was recently launched by Pistols frontman John Lydon in an attempt to try to stop the production using any of their music, but he lost the case.
The series is being directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle.
17. The Reckoning
The subject matter of this mini-series is likely to make it one of the year’s most talked about dramas, whatever its quality. The Reckoning will follow the rise of TV presenter Jimmy Savile, and, after his death, the subsequent uncovering of his decades of abuse.
The BBC has said it intends to give a voice to Savile’s many victims, and to tell their stories with respect. Savile will be played by actor and comedian Steve Coogan.
18. Screw (Channel 4)
Set in the fictional Long Marsh Prison, Screw promises to be a darkly comic drama following the lives of the under pressure prison staff and the male inmates they’re in charge of.
Leading the team of prison officers is Nina Sosanya’s Leigh. She’s joined on the staff by newcomer Rose, played by Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, who has to endure what’s being described as a baptism of fire.
19. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (UK broadcaster tbc)
Both the Marvel and Star Wars universes have enjoyed huge success expanding their range of stories and series in order to satisfy a ravenous fanbase.
Star Trek may not have been as quick out of the blocks, but in recent years it has been taking advantage of the love the series enjoys around the world.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the latest off-shoot, and is a prequel to the Kirk years of Star Trek: The Original Series, with Anson Mount’s Captain Pike in charge of the Enterprise alongside Ethan Peck’s young Spock.
20. This Sceptred Isle (Sky Atlantic/Now TV)
Sir Kenneth Branagh plays Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a five-part drama charting the UK’s response to the global Covid pandemic.
The drama aims to trace the impact of Covid on government, doctors, nurses, scientists and the wider public.
The series, co-written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, is based on first-hand testimony from 10 Downing Street, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) as well as from hospitals and care homes.
21. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Sky)
The best-selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger has already been adapted into a 2009 film.
This time the story of Clare (Rose Leslie), who first met her time travelling future husband Henry (Theo James) when she was a child, has been made into a TV series, giving much more space to a love story as intricate as the mechanism of a carriage clock.
It’s been adapted by Steven Moffat, who is no stranger to time travel tales after his time as a writer and showrunner on Doctor Who.
22. Trigger Point (ITV)
This six-part thriller stars Vicky McClure as Metropolitan Police bomb disposal expert and army veteran Lana Washington, who is part of a team having to deal with a terrorist campaign threatening London.
It also stars Adrian Lester as her close friend and colleague Joel Nutkins.
The drama is being produced by Jed Mercurio’s HTM Television. Mercurio has had huge success portraying both the worlds of terrorism and policing with Line of Duty and Bodyguard.